Former frontman of The Maccabees, Orlando Weeks released his critically acclaimed second solo album, Hop Up, last year. Inspired by parenthood, the follow-up to A Quickening, “filled in the gaps” from his first solo project and became so much more.
With more new music in the pipeline following the success and creative flow derived from Hop Up, Weeks kicked off his UK tour this week, giving fans the first taste of unheard material along with the uplifting sounds of the latest record on the live stage.
We caught up with Orlando before his King Tuts show in Glasgow last night. We discuss what fans can expect from the live shows, the differences between touring as a solo artist and being in a band, the direction of his new music, and plenty more.
NC: Your tour kicked off this week, how have the opening nights been for you?
OW: “The first one is always difficult. There’s a lot to remember and you just try to enjoy it for what it is. We had a big debrief the following morning and it felt great, we feel we’re on the right trajectory and I’m currently in tinkering mode. We didn’t do a debrief today so that shows we’re getting there. It’s taking some adjusting being in the company of lots of people rather than in our own homes, and we want to keep improving.”
NC: How are the songs from Hop Up translating onto the live performances and what can people expect from the setlist?
OW: “Hop Up is a much more uplifting collection of songs and that seems to come across. It is hard to tell, I’ve not managed to gauge the reaction from the crowds yet as it always takes me a while. The setlist is a fair split between A Quickening, Hop Up, and the new record. We’re playing it well and I hope people enjoy.”
NC: You must have been pleased with the reaction to the latest record?
OW: “Yeah, I think the more I spent time with those songs I feel they communicate in the way I hoped they would. There was a great response to the first record about the birth of my son and the run up to that, and spending time with the record made me realise I never wrote about the pleasure, excitement and optimism of his arrival. So Hop Up was me trying to make sure I’d given the whole story.”
NC: You must be excited for Glasgow tonight as the crowds are famously brilliant. Is your name on the famous King Tuts steps yet?
OW: “I don’t want to jinx it. King Tuts is an amazing venue, you can feel the heritage of it. I love the staggering of where you can stand in the audience, and I’m really up for it. The Maccabees never played there so we’re not on the steps, I’ll have to Tipp-Ex us in later.”
NC: You’ll be at Gorilla in Manchester on Saturday, how are you feeling ahead of returning to the city, particularly to an important venue at risk of closure recently?
OW: “Manchester has always been a good stop as a touring musician. Grassroots venues are everything. As a new band, you need to test yourself in a real way in front of people, learning by trial and error. The only way to do that is to gig several nights a week in a small venue. It is a revolving door of people, a right of passage for starting bands. It is a route across the country where you can play the songs you love to new people.”
NC: What are the pros and cons of touring as a solo artist rather than in a band?
OW: “With The Maccabees, I could play a massive room and still be as useless at gauging the crowd reaction as I would be in a smaller room. It is just something I’ve never been good at so in that sense it’s still the same. I think being the first and last stop on decisions is different – “on your head be it”. I need to be there for every decision, such as making sure the merch stand is ready and that the musicians feel welcomed and appreciated because they put a lot of heart and soul into it. The aspects where I can channel my energies, I enjoy. I stay busy during the day and I like that, it’s a good space.”
NC: Do you prefer the freedom musically to explore your own personal creativity and sonic direction?
OW: “I think people are so many things, I try to make the best record I can create at the time. Then I want to get straight back into it and make another record. Being able to fully express myself through anything is unrealistic, I get close in some aspects but miss by miles in others.”
NC: Now the tour is underway, are there any cities or venues you are particularly excited to play after this weekend?
OW: “It’s always nice to play in London because that’s where I’m from, so we’re playing Heaven. I’ve also not been back to Bristol for a long time. The last show we did before the first lockdown was in Bristol, so to go back there with things having returned to some normality will be good. And playing on a boat (Thekla) will of course be fun.”
NC: You are playing some new tracks, so what can we expect from the next chapter of your solo career?
OW: “There is a lot more guitar. I went away and took most of our touring musicians to a studio on the Isle of Wight. We’re nearly done, we were there for a fortnight making the record. It has a lot more verse musicality rather than Hop Up which was just me and Nathan Jenkins trying to achieve that cloud nine feeling.”
NC: Do you find the fanbase is still The Maccabees fans, or are you opening new avenues? How do you find that breakaway from being in a band to being identified as a solo artist in your own right?
OW: “I don’t know. When I stick around after the shows I meet people and it is often those who have been there since The Maccabees days. But there is a mix, some people are here because of the new material. The only time I’ve found it difficult is when I’m playing a new song and trying hard to remember the words and hear someone shout a Maccabees lyric and I mess it up. But that is the only time, and I know it is from a good place and meaning well, just bad timing. It’s all just work I’ve done. I see it as my collective songs I’ve written throughout my career with the band and as a solo artist. I’m still trying to be the best I can be and hope the next song I write is the best song I write.”
NC: I imagine you get the classic question all the time about reuniting, does this bother you?
OW: “Quiet often, yes, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m not a journalist and I’d never tell someone how to do their job, so it doesn’t concern me. I understand where that question comes from, people can ask me whatever they like.”
NC: In that case, are we any closer to The Maccabees’ reunion?
OW: “Not at the moment, I don’t think so. I saw the boys the other day and it was nice. My focus at the moment is on the tour, making my gig tonight the best it can be and enjoying my day off tomorrow.”
NC: How will you be spending your day off?
OW: “We’re in an Airbnb in the middle of nowhere, we dropped our stuff off on the way. You can’t see anything for miles and miles, it’s amazing. We’ll just mooch around, find a pub, and have a sit down in the countryside. Not bad is it?”
There are six dates remaining on Orlando Weeks’ solo tour, including Gorilla in Manchester tomorrow night and Nottingham on Sunday. Head to the following link for full listings and to get tickets for the tour: https://www.songkick.com/artists/9760424-orlando-weeks/calendar.
Keep your eyes out for news on Orlando’s new music and future tour dates, along with an exciting book project he is working on…
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“If you could go out for a drink with any three musicians, past or present, who would you choose and why?” – That’s what we ask our guests on the Fantasy Pints Podcast! Seasons 1 & 2 are available now. You can check out all episodes on Spotify, Apple and YouTube, including interviews with DMA’s, Clint Boon, Robbie Knox, The Wombats, Jamie Webster, Clinton Baptiste, Scheiffer Bates, Omid Djalili and plenty more!